Calgary judge rules woman can proceed with MAID despite dad’s pleas

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Calgary judge rules autistic woman can proceed with MAID, despite father’s arguments
A Calgary judge has ruled that a 27-year-old woman should have access to medical assistance in dying (MAID), despite her father's attempt to block her request. The father argued she is not competent to make the decision to take her own life. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Mar 30, 2024

A Calgary judge has ruled a 27-year-old woman should have access to medical assistance in dying despite her father’s attempts to block her request.

A publication ban protects the identities of the father and daughter. In court documents, the daughter is named as MV and the father as WV.

MV lives with her father and told him in December that she had been approved for medical assistance in dying (MAID).

Her date of death was scheduled for Feb. 1, but her father was granted an interim injunction the day before it was set to take place.

According to court documents, the father said he believes that his daughter is vulnerable and is not competent to decide to take her own life. He also said that she is “generally healthy” and believed that her physical symptoms are from “undiagnosed psychological conditions.” The diagnoses described in court are autism and ADHD.

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A written decision issued Monday from Justice Colin Feasby said it is MV’s choice whether she chooses to live or die.

“MV’s dignity and right to self-determination outweigh the important matters raised by WV and the harm that he will suffer in losing MV,” Feasby’s decision read.

The judge said MV could not be approved for MAID if her sole condition was mental illness or disability.

Feasby also acknowledged the grief WV will experience if MV chooses to proceed with MAID. However, he said an injunction would deny MV’s right to choose between living or dying with dignity.

“What must be balanced is the harm to WV if an injunction is not granted – the profound grief that is caused by the death of a child and the harm to MV if an injunction is granted – the loss of autonomy and dignity,” wrote Feasby.

The judge added the father “can perhaps take some solace in the fact that he did his best to persuade his daughter of the value of her life and her parents’ commitment to loving and supporting her.”

Feasby said his decision will be stayed for 30 days so WV’s lawyers can decide whether to file an appeal.

“I think it’s really important this case (reflects) the need for everybody to understand that people with autism can absolutely have decision-making capacity,” said Jocelyn Downie, a retired professor from Dalhousie University’s faculties of law and medicine.

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Downie said people can naturally be torn when they first hear about the case.

“I think there is a very clear law and there’s good reasons for protecting the woman’s autonomy and feeling for the father, but not allowing him to override his competent daughter’s wishes,” Downie said

This isn’t the first case of its kind in Canada. In 2020, a bid by a Nova Scotia woman to stop her 83-year-old husband from receiving a medically assisted death was rejected by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

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